Electroencephalogram in the intensive care unit: a focused look at acute brain injury

Intensive Care Med. 2022 Oct;48(10):1443-1462. doi: 10.1007/s00134-022-06854-3. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Over the past decades, electroencephalography (EEG) has become a widely applied and highly sophisticated brain monitoring tool in a variety of intensive care unit (ICU) settings. The most common indication for EEG monitoring currently is the management of refractory status epilepticus. In addition, a number of studies have associated frequent seizures, including nonconvulsive status epilepticus (NCSE), with worsening secondary brain injury and with worse outcomes. With the widespread utilization of EEG (spot and continuous EEG), rhythmic and periodic patterns that do not fulfill strict seizure criteria have been identified, epidemiologically quantified, and linked to pathophysiological events across a wide spectrum of critical and acute illnesses, including acute brain injury. Increasingly, EEG is not just qualitatively described, but also quantitatively analyzed together with other modalities to generate innovative measurements with possible clinical relevance. In this review, we discuss the current knowledge and emerging applications of EEG in the ICU, including seizure detection, ischemia monitoring, detection of cortical spreading depolarizations, assessment of consciousness and prognostication. We also review some technical aspects and challenges of using EEG in the ICU including the logistics of setting up ICU EEG monitoring in resource-limited settings.

Keywords: Cortical spreading depolarization; Disorders of consciousness; Electroencephalogram; Intensive care unit; Ischemia; Nonconvulsive seizures; Status epilepticus.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus* / diagnosis